SANDPOINT — Gravel and garbage across the Long Bridge are a hindrance for anyone who enjoys walking across the two-mile long structure.
More particularly, it is a barrier for those with physical disabilities who take to the bridge for exercise and to enjoy the beauty of the Lake Pend Oreille and Pend Oreille River views. That's why the folks at Bleeding Hearts Tattoo Emporium were inspired to adopt that section of highway.
"We have a client who is wheelchair-bound and uses the bridge for exercise," said Bleeding Hearts owner Jon Bates. "The bridge is the only real flat area in Sandpoint that's paved ... and actually, come to find out, for handicap folks that is actually a really common place for them to do that."
Bleeding Hearts is hosting a Long Bridge cleanup this Sunday to help clear the path. As the word got out, Bates said they have received several calls from other disabled people who thanked them in advance.
"They were running into the same problem that when they get out there to exercise, there is so much junk on there that their chairs get stuck," Bates said.
Bates said he and the Bleeding Hearts staff had wanted to participated in the Idaho Transportation Department's Adopt A Highway program for some time. The only section left in the area was out toward Laclede, he said, and the paperwork was all filled out. They had not turned the paperwork in yet when they learned of the need for someone to adopt the Long Bridge. The section is now officially adopted and Bates said they are going to try and get the signs up before the weekend, though he was unsure if that would be possible.
While the program requires at least two cleanups each year, Bates said he hopes they will be able to do three — one in the fall and one in spring, as well as a mid-summer cleanup.
The Long Bridge was originally constructed in 1908. Due to wear and tear during the World War II and post-war eras, the bridge was replaced in 1956 with a concrete and steel bridge, which is the section now used by cyclists and pedestrians. The existing traffic bridge was constructed in 1978. According to the Bleeding Hearts Tattoo Emporium's Facebook page, ITD officials informed them that, to their knowledge, a cleanup has not been organized on the Long Bridge since it was built.
Cleanup information and updates are listed on the Bleeding Hearts Facebook page under events. The crew will begin at 10 a.m. and work until 5 p.m. unless they finish early, and the community is invited to lend a hand.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.